The Write Way
5 June 2009
We're a Weird Mob ...
You may (just may) have heard me mention this once or twice in the course of our acquaintance (because it's true) ... we really are a weird mob. And I was reminded of this yet again when Albert (one of our Merry Band) sent me a short article about a book called “Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin. (To be honest, neither of us has read the book, just the review by Verlyn Klinkenborg who writes, "(Grandin) suggests that the purpose of the big human brain isn’t to gather sensory data about the world around it but to filter it out. Humans don’t have raw access to the input from our senses the way animals do... . We see in patterns, abstractly — just what we expect to see."
We've pondered this ability to filter out unwanted data before, when we delved into the fascinating world of our "reticular activating system" and got to know what pareidolia is all about. Suffice to say that the human brain is a complex little entrée -- even without the crumbs and parsley sauce. (And ugh! No, I've never eaten brains ... There's something very macabre about eating the control centre of another living creature ... even worse than feasting on its flesh or vital organs.)
So you'll know what I'm talking about when I remind you of those times when you're chatting with people and start to tell them about a place you've been or a person you've met or something you've seen, and you know you know the word, but you can't for the life of you dredge it up out of your memory banks.
Annoying, isn't it?
Almost as annoying (but very weird) is the way that missing word will suddenly pop into your memory when you're in the middle of doing something completely unrelated. And it seems that letting the puppy loose is the only way to make this thing work. The more you screw up your face and concentrate and get yourself all hyped up about not being able to remember, the less chance you have of recalling that wayward word; but let your mind wander and bounce around from thought to thought like a puppy after a soap bubble, and suddenly ... there it is! The elusive word, sitting meekly at your feet and looking up at you with big, innocent eyes ...
Since we've all experienced this very thing, I thought it was about time we had a word for it, and the word came to me one night last week when I was desperately trying to take my own advice and let my mind wander instead of pounding my forehead and berating myself with, "Come on, you goose! You know the word ... you've used it a dozen times ... It's a bit like "kudos," but that's not it ...Think, damn you, think!" (The word I was hunting was the word that describes the excessive pride or self-confidence that leads us to thumb our noses at the gods ... that feeling we wallow in the split second before the gods look down and say, "Oops, missed one ...")
So there I was, tossing and turning as I tried to recall the word when I decided I should follow my own advice and think about something else ... and Brad Pitt still being involved with the Woman-with-Lips, I opted instead to try to find a word to describe the process we go through when trying to come up with a lost word.
Since you're already familiar with the odd ways my tiny brain works, I'm not embarrassed to let you accompany me in this replay ... Actually, there was no ordered process, just a sudden rush of thoughts that included: "my best mate Google ... using your noggin ... using your noodle ..." and this led straight to the neologism that I hope will take the world by storm ...
Try it on for size:
"I can't think of that word!"
"Why don't you noogle it, then ..."
Hmmm ... OK, so maybe it needs a little refinement, but I definitely think I'm onto something here.
It appears that if we are to follow Grandin's argument, we need to realise that our brains are there not to receive all the sensory messages we come across every day, but to filter out the non-essentials, and when you stop and think about it, she's right!
Look about yourself right now ... how many messages are bombarding your senses as you sit at your 'puter? There will be noise of some sort ... from a radio, TV, computer, people around you.
There will be smells ... of cooking, coffee, cars, furniture polish, manufacturing processes ... depending on where your desk is.
There will be sight messages ... the room, the contents of the room ... thousands upon thousands of objects all vying for your attention ... "Look at me!" they all scream, "Look at me!" The area outside the room could be a garden or a busy street, again with thousands of objects demanding you notice them.
There may be other people with their clothes and belongings, all talking to you, moving about, with perfumes and after-shave lotions wafting about them ....
Your body will be subjected to all sorts of sensations as it touches the floor and various points on the furniture ... are you sitting on a soft cushion or a hard chair? Are you comfortably warm or is there a cold draught? Is it stuffy and hot?
And that's not even considering all the emotional messages bombarding you ... Are you upset after a disagreement with a family member, a run-in on the train or in the car-park? Are you worried about the economy and your job security? Are you eagerly anticipating the chance to talk (and flirt ... let's be honest here) with a co-worker? Are you ... Well, we could go on forever, couldn't we?
So how does that mush of little grey cells ensconced in your scone cope?
By filtering out all the extraneous messages. Otherwise we'd all be battier than we are now!
One thing that can help to keep you sane (or drive you battier faster) is your job. What do you do all day? This week's Little Something Extra has some interesting things to say about what we do ...
And that word I was trying to think of? It's this week's Word of the Week, so we should all remember it from now on!
You'll need to be in your prime to appreciate this next story ... If you're not, ask your mother to explain it ...
A traveller in the Himalayas came
upon a great gathering of holy men, philosophers and aspiring Buddhas. They
represented all aspects of belief and seeking, including one aged guru who was
reputed to have achieved nirvana by subsisting entirely on a diet of asparagus.
Have Your Say
Our Map of the World feature has been a popular way for members of our Merry Band to comment about Write101 over the years - the disadvantage has been that it only retains 100 entries, so many of you have had to return frequently to keep posting. But now, thanks to my best mate Google, there's a way for everyone to participate.
Leave a comment here and it won't disappear after a couple of weeks. (Remember that I trawl such entries for comments to put up on the site, as you'll see when you visit ...)
And you can also:
If you have a couple of minutes to spare this weekend, drop by and have your say and don't forget to join the Write101 community. You'll find the new toys on the Home page.
This week's quiz:
And let's just see how much extraneous matter your brain has filtered out over the years and how many useless ... er ... interesting facts it's retained. Match up these odd words:
moirologist, moue, discombobulate, prosopagnosia, borborygmus, pseudandry, schadenfreude, somniferous, obambulate, cacology
1. causing or inducing sleep
2. malicious joy in the misfortunes of others
3. inability to recognise familiar faces
4. to walk about
5. a hired mourner
6. poor choice of words; incorrect pronunciation
7. to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate
8. pout; grimace
9. a rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines
10. use of a male name as a pseudonym by a woman
This next little story was sent to me by a friend who is actually a lawyer, but if you're a lawyer without a sense of humour, skip this ...
One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when
he saw two men along the road-side eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his
driver to stop and he got out to investigate.
"We don't have any money for food," the poor man
replied. "We have to eat grass."
No, don't grizzle and grumble to me ... I did warn you ...
Last week's quiz:
And here's something you may not know ...
Artifacts are a major portion of an American-Indian reservation's economy. Annually, thousands of tourists visit reservations and most will not leave without purchasing at least one memento of the traditional Indian culture. One enterprising Indian was able to outsell his competitors in the sale of wooden dolls by selling them at only a fraction of the cost others had to charge.
On examination of his dolls, inspectors found that where traditionally hard wood was used, this Indian would use cheap pine on which he glued thin pieces of fine mahogany, thus being able to produce the dolls at only a fraction of the cost. While he claimed his doll was still authentic, his competitors complained that it was only a cheap Sioux Veneer.
A Little Something Extra
The World's Best Business?
by John Forde
You've heard about the oldest profession.
And I'm guessing you know the toughest, too (parenting).
Click to find out the world's best business.
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Word of the week: Hubris (n) overbearing pride or presumption; excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance
This extremely useful word comes from from the Greek word
hybris meaning 'wanton violence, insolence, outrage,' originally
'presumption toward the gods.'
And a Latin phrase that fits nicely with our Little Something Extra (and the new Star Trek movie!)
Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit
Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com